You may not have heard about it yet, but you will. Actress and mother Jessica Alba is traveling to Washington DC next week to lend her name and star power to an extremely worthy cause: reducing our exposure to unsafe chemicals by reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). She will be lending her support to the Safer Chemical Healthy Families coalition, which is leading the campaign. NRDC is a member of this broad coalition to pass smart federal policies that protect us from toxic chemicals.
One of Jessica Alba’s movie roles was Sue Storm Richards in the Fantastic Four, part of a quartet with individual super powers. Among Sue Storm’s powers is that she can create an invisible force field to protect herself and others from bullets, lasers and other weapons. But even a super hero with an invisible force field wouldn’t be able to prevent herself, or her children from being exposed to hundreds of toxic chemicals, most of them untested and unregulated. Like flame retardants. This week a report was released that found flame retardants suspected of causing cancer are widespread in household and children’s products, including infant carriers and nursing pillows. Sue Storm and her family would probably have been exposed to a lot of flame retardants around the house, particularly since her brother Johnny’s signature superpower was being able to burst into flame, on self-command (“Flame On!”).
And flame retardants are just one class of chemicals that are routinely found in our bodies, some of which have been associated in scientific studies with a host of chronic illness and diseases including cancer, learning and developmental disabilities, birth defects and reproductive harm. That widespread exposure to chemicals, which includes exposures that have been measured in pregnant women and newborns, and the lack of restrictions on the use of chemicals, even those we know are unsafe, has led numerous science and medical organizations – including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Public Health Association -- to call for Congress to act to reform TSCA and protect the public.
I’m a doctor, and a mom, and, like Sue Storm’s superpower, my medical knowledge and experience aren’t enough to protect my daughter from exposure to toxic chemicals. Jessica Alba has her own set of superpowers as a successful actress, mother and activist, which can be used for good or evil. And she is a mom, which is another source of power (and inspiration).
Of course, the chemical industry has its own source of power, particularly in Washington DC, and, so far, the industry’s power has successfully blocked reform, and been able to maintain the status quo, despite the public’s strong concern about toxic chemicals and chronic illness. Most politicians in Washington have managed to tune-out the publics’ concerns, and have avoided the unpleasant reality that to protect the public they must be willing to make decisions that will displease the chemical industry.
So I’m excited, and hopeful, that Jessica Alba’s unique skills and high profile will raise the awareness of the problem, and the need for reform, in Washington, and inspire others to raise their voices and make their own contributions to the effort. That would be Fantastic!
Join Jessica Alba and urge your senators to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act. This post was first published on NRDC's Switchboard blog.